How Anna LeBaron Escaped From a Polygamist Cult

Young woman in dark building walkway

Known as one of the most infamous cult leaders in American history—Ervil LeBaron had 13 wives, and more than 50 children—told followers he was “God’s Prophet” and was wanted by the FBI and the Mexican police for over 20 murders.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he ordered the deaths of dozens more of his religious rivals. Because of this, he was called the “Mormon Manson.” Even after his arrest in 1979, he sent out hits from his prison cell for his henchmen to continue to kill remaining rivals. Even now, former members of his cult still look over their shoulders.

In today’s exclusive, we are sitting down with Anna LeBaron, one of his numerous daughters who endured abandonment, horrific living conditions, child labor, and sexual grooming to discuss how she escaped her violent father and his cult.

Growing up in Colonia LeBaron, Mexico, a fundamentalist Mormon colony six hours south of the New Mexico border, Anna LeBaron rarely felt safe.

She didn’t play hopscotch with her school friends at recess or watch The Brady Bunch on television with her siblings. Her mother didn’t pack her school lunch and her dad didn’t give her a hug at the door wishing her a good day. Instead, her parents, who were on the run from federal authorities abandoned her in Mexico, leaving her with a family she didn’t know. She was separated from her mom, Ervil’s fourth wife Anna-Mae Marston, and shoved in a dirty safe house with other sect kids.

“We were taught that we were being persecuted because we were God’s chosen people and that the world outside didn’t understand us,” she said.

Even though she had grown up in polygamy, she had no idea of the truth: she was auditioning as a potential wife.

Her father had promised her to a man named Rafael. If Rafael, a recent convert to her father’s polygamist sect, was still in favor with him when the girls reached marriageable age—typically 15—it would happen. She and her sisters and were pawns to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, those followers willing to do whatever her father asked, no matter what it involved.

At age 13, just two years away from her arranged marriage,  she managed to escape with the help of former cult members, Lilian and Mark. But they didn’t know that Ervil had drawn up a list of traitors in prison—The Book of the New Covenants—and that Mark’s name was on it.